Suffolk Downs and Citi Center Team Up for Entertainment at Proposed Casino

Tuesday morning brought the major announcement by Suffolk Downs and Caesar’s Entertainment that they have cemented a partnership with Boston’s Citi Performing Arts Center (Citi Center) to provide arts and entertainment programming at the proposed casino.

Citi Center operates the Wang Center, the Shubert Theatre and the Emerson Majestic Theatre in Boston’s Theatre District.

Suffolk Downs Chief Operating Officer Chip Tuttle said the partnership opens up access to both venues, also allowing potential casino rewards programs to be used for buying tickets at Boston events.

“This makes the Citi Performing Arts Center and facilities available to our guests and vice versa,” he said. “We have the benefit of a partnership with Caesar’s that has one of the most successful customer rewards programs in the world, with 40 million members. We’re going to want to market the City of Boston and the City of Revere and their cultural institutions to those 40 million members. We want people to come to Boston for many reasons other than what’s in our gaming facility.

“We’re not talking about a facility here where we’re trying to keep people from going outside and keeping them here as long as possible,” he continued. “That’s a stereotype of days gone by. This is a facility that’s part of Boston and part of Revere. We want to have open doors and we want them to interact within the communities.”

While it opens up a partnership between the Theatre District and Suffolk Downs, Tuttle stressed that – if successful in gaining a casino license – people shouldn’t expect a large, new entertainment venue at the track.

“We are restricted by the gaming legislation in what we can build,” he said. “We cannot construct a venue that has between 1,000 and 3,500 seats. We cannot have a 2,500-seat amphitheatre, but that’s fine with us. We understand the benefit of partnering with existing facilities. That’s one reason we’re so happy about this partnership with Citi.”

He did say they would use the 25,000 sq. ft. ballroom in the proposed hotel as an entertainment venue, as well as the existing grandstand at the track. He also said there is an outdoor garden space between the track and the proposed hotel that they plan to use in the warmer months for entertainment purposes.

Josiah Spaulding, Citi Center CEO and president, said the partnership will bring a new power to Boston.

“Three iconic institutions and brands are coming together to promote economic development for the City of Boston by boosting our arts, cultural and entertainment sector,” said Spaulding. “Our institution has played a valuable role in the community for decades and we are eager to work with Caesars Entertainment on multiple levels to the benefit of our community.”

Tuttle said the partnership will allow rewards points from Caesar’s program to be used at the Citi’s three venues in Boston’s Theatre District, and it would also allow coordination  and cross booking of events at the potential casinos.

“The cross-booking, that’s a part of it,” said Tuttle. “Right now, lots of different acts have radius restrictions in their contracts. If they appear at a Connecticut casino, it may not be possible to be booked at a theatre in Massachusetts. If we add the institutional buying power and relevance of Caesar’s at our facility to what is really a vested local organization like Citi Performing Arts, it gives us both the ability to get these types of acts to come to the Boston area.”

That type of partnership would also allow Citi Center staff to coordinate concerts and events at Suffolk Downs, and would allow Caesar’s to promote shows through its rewards program happening at Citi Center venues in Boston.

“If Caesar’s is able to send an e-mail out to a database of people interested in certain performers and that performer happens to be at a Citi venue at a certain time of the year, it gives Caesar’s the ability to market that show to our rewards members and entice those members to come to our facility and to see that performer at the Citi venue,” said Tuttle.

Tuttle said one other major aspect of the partnership is bringing youth-oriented programming via Citi Center to the communities of Revere and East Boston.

“We share a very successful program with them of youth and youth arts programming,” said Tuttle. “We’ll share that goal of extending that and look to them in helping us figure out how we extend activities and cultural programs into our communities, not just Boston, but into Revere as well.”

The Massachusetts gaming legislation authorizing resort casino licenses includes language requiring all operators to reach agreements with “not-for-profit or municipally-owned performance venues” in the potential licensee’s region. No other state that allows gaming has a similar provision in its law and the partnership announcement may be a first among all the proposed resort sites now being considered in the state.

In addition to Citi Center, Suffolk Downs officials said they are working to establish other partnerships and enter into formal negotiations with other not-for-profit or publicly owned venues in Greater Boston.

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